By Johnnie Godwin
Contributing Columnist, Baptist and Reflector
When we were raising our three boys, one of them was particularly prone to say early in the morning, “It’s going to be a bad day!” Usually, some piddling thing had happened that brought forth that comment. Inevitably, I replied with authority, “Happy up! It’s going to be the kind of day you make it!” That rule was proverbial then and now. Exceptions do occur, but the proverb holds.
Living in a negative society. Besides our nasty, negative election year and all other circumstances, we are living in the most negative society I remember. And I’ve been around for a good many years. People used to refer to someone getting up on the wrong side of the bed. I’ve observed that multitudes of people seemingly don’t have a “right” side of the bed. Take almost any subject there can be a difference on, and state your positive side of it. I can guarantee you others around you will disagree and take the negative. Why, in formal debates in high school, do you know which side tends to win year after year? It’s the negative! But God doesn’t want us to live unhappy, negative lives. Rather, His Word tells us repeatedly what I dictated as our Godwin House Rule: namely, happy up!
The Bible realistically deals with the negatives and the positives of life. Even the Ten Commandments are divided between the “shalls” and “shall nots.” But overall, the Bible is a positive and happy book built on God’s grace and love for us to practice. God is love! His love is unending. And within that love, the Bible tells us that our lives are to be lives of rejoicing. The keynote of the New Testament is joy. John 16:33 tells us that we’ll have trouble in the world but that we are to be of good cheer. Jesus said that despite troubles in the world, He had conquered the world eternally (HSCB). And that means His grace, love, joy, and happiness ought to endure and override all the negatives and the temporary nature of this earthly world. We have eternal life and reason to have eternal happiness and joy.
How Godwin House Rules evolved. You might wonder how I came up with my own Godwin House Rules. Well, I’ll tell you. I grew up in a loving Christian home that mostly had joy. But the wear and tear of the Depression, World War II, Korea, and the effects of daily living physically tended to wear down body and spirit. So, over time, my parents and my home seem to have more grumbling and griping in it than I remembered from my earlier years. As I moved into adolescence and thoughts of marriage, I also surrendered to preach. That led me to read the Bible, pray about God’s kind of wife for me, and to determine the attitudes and nature of the home we would have. I didn’t want a negative home. So one of my earliest rules was “happy up!” You might think you can’t command someone to happy up. But the Bible does that all the time. Psalm 118:24 tells us this is the day the Lord has made and that we are to rejoice and be glad in it. Philippians is known as the book of joy because it has some form of joy or rejoicing in it 19 times. I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to rejoice evermore. The Greek word for “blessed” in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10) may be translated “happy.” I wanted our home to be characterized by happiness!
Another Godwin House Rule. But, realistically, since I was the “Big Poopaw” and not “Pollyanna,” I usually had to be the disciplinarian. Discipline in the sense of correcting and not just formative discipline is loving, laughing, and cheerfulness. So when I got home from endless early years of schooling, work, and all that can drag everybody in a household down, the negatives were waiting for me. Each child with a complaint wanted a piece of me, so I adopted another Godwin House Rule: “Thou shalt not bring up anything negative until after supper is over!” I enforced that rule. We did have a lot of quiet suppers with knowing looks cast around, but we ate good food in peace, without argument. And after we finished dessert — if we had any — I “presided” as judge — but not as dictator.
God’s House Rules. My Godwin House Rules were not the final rules at all. We read the Bible, prayed, celebrated missionary birthdays, and identified their place of service on a globe. We went to church and learned and practiced God’s House Rules. So that naturally tended to make for a happy home. We’ve had grief and death, but mostly we’ve had joy. With eight grown grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, I can tell you the children are finding themselves in homes much like the one our three sons grew up in, not perfect, but mostly happy, Christian homes that look to God in Christ’s joy for happiness — not mere circumstances. We are able to “happy up” in the Lord. May you and your home do the same!
— Copyright 2016 by Johnnie C. Godwin. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.